Green.org sat down with Glenn Payne, CEO of SEP, an independent retail energy provider, shares how he built a successful career in the energy industry. Glenn co-founded and led the company from inception to sale. Glenn shares his background working in energy and where he sees the future of sustainability going.
Glenn, thanks for being here. Tell us a little bit about you and your background:
I’ve been involved in the energy industry for 25 years. I’ve been a consultant, manager, investor, CEO, Chairman and Founder of electricity related businesses. I’ve advised on fuel cells, power generation and management, I’ve invested in carbon offsets, wind turbines, biofuels, waste to energy and retail suppliers, I’ve run a private equity firm and founded a competitive energy supplier.
I enjoy this large industry because it requires deep thought to support decisions and investments. Modern society exists because of electricity and in the worst case may be the cause of radical demise. But helping shape progress be it through changed behaviors, equipment or systems is something I’ve tried to be on the right side of. I have accounting and management degrees so I don’t profess to be an engineer but I enjoy solving problems and like to surround myself with smarter people.
What is a fun fact about you?
I have driven across every country I’ve lived in: Australia, UK, Singapore and the US.
Why do you think climate change and sustainability is such an important topic today?
Doing something today that requires an effort and an investment to avoid an adverse outcome in a timeframe beyond ourselves is an unnatural act. Monuments have been constructed that have lasted millennia but driven by dictators and performed under duress. We don’t live in ancient Egypt, China or Rome so creating a global sense of shared sacrifice across largely democratic free nations is THE topic of today. I live on a beach.
In 100 years our house will have been replaced and elevated, but our road may be intermittently flooded so at what stage do we admit defeat and retreat – a very uncomfortable unhuman condition, but one that is clearly a sensible outcome. We all have 99 problems and most are more pressing than solving climate change but it’s the one our descendants will curse us for ignoring.
What do you envision your industry looking like 10 years from now?
Any investment in the electric industry tends to be modelled on 40 years. So if we are realistic and say everything can and should be turned over by 2060 and work backwards we could see 25-30% (up from 12% today) of consumption coming from renewables, change tends to accelerate so it’s not linear but it is positive. Creating new real technologies and building to scale is a long run activity. But many smart people are increasingly involved and just as we have seen the LCOE from renewables collapse in the past 20 years we will see improvements in battery, turbine, efficiency technologies that will make a difference. Just not by Friday afternoon.
What can the average person do to make a difference?
Do. Something. Accept change, ask for change, demand change: make change happen. It’s a loooong road and it’s not simple easy or cheap but change requires the average person to participate.
We have at least reached a tipping point where the concept that the climate is changing has been accepted: step 1. Now comes the idea that the cost of success is real and will require capital and commitment to effectively get to where we are already – a fully electrified society, just this time powered by sources other than fossil fuels. So be on the right side of history, be a part of the change.